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Whenever I look at the latest polls and start to freak out about Donald Trump winning the presidency again, I calm myself by remembering that the guy is very likely going to be an at-least-once convicted felon by next November. While that won’t bother his fans, I still think it will bother enough swing voters that he will lose, and maybe spectacularly.
That scenario got a little more likely Thursday when the California judge overseeing a misconduct trial against Trump attorney and coup-plotter John Eastman made a “preliminary finding” of culpability on Eastman’s part for his attempts to halt the certification of the 2020 election results.
What’s the upshot? No, Eastman isn’t guilty of anything just yet. But he is now closer to being disbarred, and that could make it more likely that he flips. MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance wrote on X: “If John Eastman loses his license in the bar proceeding, it incentiv[iz]es him (or would incentivize a rationale person) to plead & cooperate in the criminal case to avoid prison (since he’s already lost his license).”
Eastman is one of the 19 defendants in the Fulton County, Georgia, RICO case against Trump and others for conspiring to steal the election. Four named defendants in that case have already pleaded out and agreed to provide testimony against other defendants: lawyers Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, and Kenneth Chesebro and bail bondsman Scott Hall.
And don’t forget former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who got an immunity deal from special counsel Jack Smith in Smith’s January 6–related case against Trump. It was revealed just last week that Meadows has testified under oath in that case three times since agreeing to the deal. It was this news that led Chris Christie to go on Morning Joe and crow: “This is deadly. It’s done. [Trump]’s going to be convicted. It’s over.”
On top of all this, of course, was the main Trump family drama of the week, the testimony by his sons in the New York attorney general’s case against the Trump Organization. Don Jr. in his testimony tried to pin any misstatements about Trump family property values on Mazars, the accounting firm the Trumps used; Eric basically denied that he worked on financial statements. Ivanka Trump is set to testify next week, after a judge late Thursday denied her motion that requiring her to testify during a school week would place an “undue hardship” on her (these people are so shameless). The case could cost the family $250 million.
But the real cases are likely to cost Donald Trump a lot more: the White House. His future. His freedom.
I’m telling you, this is all going to catch up with Trump at the worst (or, depending on your point of view, the best) possible time. Yes, Judge Aileen Cannon down in Florida did Trump a favor this week by suggesting she might postpone next May’s trial date in the Trump case she’s hearing, the one about the classified documents. She might move it to after the election.
A bummer, and she’s a hack, as she’s already proven to us. But fine. The other cases will proceed. And high-profile people who had direct contact with Trump have flipped and will testify against him. Christie, whatever else we think of him, is a former federal prosecutor, so when he says what he said about Meadows, he’s speaking from experience.
We’re entering what’s going to be a maddening and horrifying time. In all likelihood, none of these other Republican candidates is going to make a charge at Trump. They’re just too afraid of him. Nikki Haley criticized him obliquely a few days ago, but no one (save Christie) is going to tell the truth about him because they know what will happen to them: They’ll sink like stones. So they’re in an impossible position—of their own making, by the way, because every one of them cheered Trump’s rise—whereby if they don’t go after the front-runner, he’ll be untouched and stay 25 points ahead of the field, and if they do, it will hurt them, and Trump’s lead will likely only grow.
So we’re in for 10 weeks—until the January 15 Iowa caucuses—of poll after poll showing Trump ahead and probably gaining. No piece of bad news will matter. He’ll roll in Iowa. Next will come New Hampshire. No date has yet been set for that primary, but it’s expected to be sometime in January. In New Hampshire, Trump is if anything further ahead than he is in Iowa. Then there’s not another GOP primary until South Carolina on February 24 (there will be Nevada and Virgin Islands caucuses on February 8). In other words, if Trump wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, the race is basically over, and there will be a full month of headlines calling Trump victorious and unstoppable.
Actually—not all headlines. In fact, on the very day, January 16, that we’ll wake up to headlines blaring, “Trump Sails to Victory in Iowa,” we will also be greeted by this headline: “E. Jean Carroll Damages Trial Against Trump Starts Today.” Remember that New York Judge Lewis Kaplan has already said that Trump raped Carroll in the normally understood sense of the term. So readers, and voters, are going to be reminded of that. Then the January 6 trial, the one in which Meadows flipped, starts the day before Super Tuesday. And so on.
Trump is a cornered animal. As the walls close in, he is going to go insane. Nothing in his pampered life has prepared him for the reckoning that’s coming his way. He’s gotten out of everything, from the Vietnam draft to all the bankruptcies, to the impeachments, when he obviously committed high crimes and misdemeanors. His skating days are over.
This article first appeared in Fighting Words, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by editor Michael Tomasky. Sign up here.